Science and Innovation Awards

December 20, 2006

The recipients of the third round of Science and Innovation Awards have been announced by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Funding has been awarded to build the UK's research base in the areas of Mathematical Analysis, Renewable Energy, Chemical Engineering at the Life Sciences Interface, Quantum Coherence, and Physical Organic Chemistry.

EPSRC, together with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), will fund 7 new programmes with a value of over £31 million.

Science and Innovation Awards were introduced by EPSRC in 2005 to support strategic areas of research that are particularly at risk. In a changing research landscape, as undergraduates choose new options, more traditional core subjects are encountering declining numbers of entrants. This in turn affects the base of academic staff in our universities, which impacts on the nation's capacity to produce the well-trained people and research leaders of tomorrow.

The 7 awards have been made to the following universities: (Further details of each Award are available in Notes for Editors below.)

Dr Randal Richards, Interim Chief Executive of EPSRC, said: "The latest Science and Innovation awards announced today are a component of EPSRC's activities to ensure a future healthy and vibrant research base for the UK. These awards are made in partnership with the Funding Councils of England, Scotland and Wales and are focused on ensuring strategic research areas will have the necessary leadership capacity to ensure that future generations of researchers are available in the UK."

The projects will create new centres of research activity in their respective fields in existing research environments that are encouraging and supportive of innovative approaches. These centres will have the critical mass to make major research progress. They will aim to stimulate research in the UK and international community and, where appropriate, to encourage innovation in UK business and industry. They will increase the output of trained scientists in their respective science areas.
Notes for Editors:

These grants have been funded under the principles of Full Economic Costs.

The recipients and total funding figures are:

University of Oxford - over £3.3 million has been awarded to establish a forward looking world class research centre in the Analysis of Non-linear Partial Differential Equations (PDEs). The centre, to be led by Professor Sir John Ball FRS and based at the Mathematical Institute, aims to create a vibrant and stimulating research environment and provide leadership in the area of non-linear PDEs within the UK. PDEs are ubiquitous in almost all applications of mathematics, where they provide a natural mathematical description of many phenomena. The behaviour of every material object, with length scales ranging from sub-atomic to astronomical and timescales ranging from picoseconds to millennia, can be modelled by PDEs or by equations having similar features. The centre will be focusing on the fundamental analysis of PDEs, and numerical algorithms for their solution, together with specific PDEs arising in areas as wide-ranging as geometry, relativity, finance, image analysis, learning processes and fluid mechanics, including geophysical, biological and polymeric flows. The strong research group at Oxford will, amongst other initiatives, establish an active visitor programme involving internationally leading figures, and will encourage collaborations between other UK Universities. They also plan to convene workshops with relevant industries and run a dedicated technical report series. Contact: Professor John Ball, Tel: 01865 273577, E-mail:

University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University - over 3.4 million has been awarded to develop a Centre for Analysis and Nonlinear Partial Differential Equations. It will operate under the aegis of the Maxwell Institute for Mathematical Sciences, a research pooling initiative involving the mathematics departments of the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University. Nonlinear partial differential equations and related areas of mathematical analysis form a key area of modern research in mathematics, involving profound theoretical challenges as well as having wide applicability in such diverse areas as medicine, financial modelling, environmental science and industry. Nonetheless, the UK is suffering from a lack of research expertise in the theoretical side of the subject. The Centre for Analysis and Nonlinear Partial Differential Equations at Edinburgh will redress this deficiency by making several appointments in the area; the new researchers will establish a world-class research group and will further build the UK's research capacity through a range of outreach activities. These will include the organisation of major conferences and instructional workshops, a high-profile visitor programme, as well as training the next generation of researchers through curriculum development at the postgraduate and advanced undergraduate level. The scientific activities of the Centre are likely to include research in topics such as the Navier-Stokes equations which govern fluid flow; nonlinear problems from differential geometry; nonlinear hyperbolic and dispersive equations having their origin in physical applied mathematics; stochastic partial differential equations; and some of the computational problems and challenges associated with the applications of nonlinear partial differential equations in specific modelling problems. Contacts: Professor Anthony Carbery, Tel: 0131 650 5993, E-mail:; Professor Sergei Kuksin, Tel: 0131 451 3742, E-mail:

Cardiff University - £3.8 million to create the Centre for Integrated Renewable Energy Generation and Supply (CIREGS). With significant additional investment from the university and Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, this Centre will build on the interdisciplinary nature and integration of the Cardiff institutes in order to set up a multi-discipline group with international expertise in both generation and supply of renewable energy. Skill groups required will include those contributing to developing "Smart Grids" of the future, generation sources (prioritising marine power and fuel cell technology) and enabling technologies for systems integration (power electronics, control and communications). The Centre also aims to increase the output of graduates in the energy field, combined with the identification of energy as a research theme, promising good progress in the chosen research area. Contact: Prof Hywel Thomas, Tel: 029 2087 4965, E-mail:

University of Sheffield - almost £4.3 million to build a new centre of excellence of strategic importance, ChELSI, where chemical engineers work collaboratively with biologists at the life science interface. ChELSI (Chemical Engineering at the Life Science Interface) will be based in the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering but will act as a portal for the academic chemical engineering community in the UK to access Life Science problems and techniques. Led by Professor Geof Tomlinson, Professor Mike Hounslow and Professor Phillip Wright, the vision for ChELSI is to focus on problems of relevance to human health, with initial projects in the areas of stem cells and regenerative medicine, kidney diseases, reproductive biology and protein aggregation. The new research staff including: 3 new lectureships, 3 postdoctoral research assistant positions and 3 project studentships; will complement and strengthen the current capacity and will be broadly orientated within three thematic areas (a) analytical techniques underpinning - omic measurement (b) multi-scale modelling and (c) metabolic engineering. Contacts: Professor Mike Hounslow, Tel: 0114 222 7565, E-mail:; Professor Phillip Wright, Tel: 0114 222 7577, E-mail:

University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow - £4.4 million to catalyse and sustain a new dimension in the UK's research capability in Physical Organic Chemistry (POC). POC is central to the core discipline of Chemistry and to all facets of the chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries. With its emphasis on understanding the quantitative nature of reactions, POC covers physical as well as chemical interactions between molecules and includes interactions with solid surfaces. Led by Professor John Murphy (WestCHEM, University of Strathclyde) and in collaboration with Professor Chick Wilson (WestCHEM, University of Glasgow) and Professor Graham Coombs (SIPBS at University of Strathclyde), the project will facilitate the creation of an internationally renowned Centre for POC, with an extensive network of collaborations both within the partner universities and with industry. It will provide a continuum of expertise to tackle research opportunities in areas as diverse as materials chemistry, synthesis methodologies and pharmaceutical discovery and development. It will have the capability to address issues from the solid-state to solution and gas-phase, from small molecules to biopolymers, and from nano-scale to pilot plant. The award will directly facilitate the recruitment and support costs of nine posts, and there will be excellent gearing from industry (to fund 11 additional posts) and the University/WestCHEM (6 more) to make a total of 26 new appointments. Contacts: Professor John Murphy, University of Strathclyde, Tel: 0141 548 2389, E mail:; Professor Chick Wilson, Tel: 0141 330 8522, E-mail:; Professor Graham Coombs, Tel: 0141 548 2155, E-mail:

Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and Imperial College London - almost £6 million to create a new collaboration of complementary expertise between the Physics Departments at Cambridge, Imperial & Oxford in the area of quantum coherence. This award will lead to an increase in the capacity for research and training in quantum coherence in the UK and will stimulate collaborative research projects in quantum coherence between the institutions involved. The method of approach will be to increase UK research capacity by the appointment of new faculty and the establishment of state of the art research laboratories and facilities which will help to foster collaborative research programs across several institutions. This will be complemented by implementing new training programs at the graduate and postdoctoral researcher level that will be broadly available to the UK community. Contact: Professor Ian Walmsley, Tel: 01865 272205, E-mail:

Universities of Birmingham & Nottingham - almost £6 million to establish the Midlands Ultracold Atom Research Centre between the Schools of Physics and Astronomy at Birmingham and Nottingham. This award will generate a step change in the capacity and impact of UK research at the interface between cold atoms, condensed matter, and optical physics by establishing an interdisciplinary research centre. This vast new field, recognised by the 1997 and 2001 Nobel Prizes in Physics, is driving a revolution in quantum physics and progress is accelerating at an astonishing rate. Contact: Professor Peter Beton, Tel: 0115 951 5129, E-mail:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

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